Affixes in Igbo

Affix is a letter, letters or word that is attached to another word (bound morphemes) to modify, extend or change the meaning of the original word. The process of attaching affixes is called affixation. Affixation in Igbo language is mainly with verbs. The Igbo term for affix is mgbakwunye. Affix could be prefix, interfix or suffix. Affix works with the verb root to modify the meaning of the verb root. The Igbo term for prefix is nganiihu. The Igbo term for interfix is nnọneetiti. The Igbo term for suffix is nsonaazụ. One or more verbs could be suffixed to a root verb to form a compound verb, which is addressed in another lesson.


Prefix could be any of the eight vowels or any of the two syllabic nasal (pseudo vowels). The tables below contain examples of prefix using participle, bound verb complement, infinitive, gerund, agent noun and perfect tense.

English VerbVerbParticipleExampleEnglish Translation
cooksiesiJohn na-esi nriJohn is cooking
stealzuezua ga-ezuru yait will be stolen
rearzụazụọ na-azụ ọkụkọhe rears chickens

Bound Verb Complement
English VerbVerbComplementExampleEnglish Translation
cooksiesio siri ji esihe cooked the yam
(he didn't roast it)
stealzuezuo zuru ya ezuhe stole it
(he didn't buy it)
buyzụazụọ zụrụ ya azụhe bought it
(he didn't steal it)

English VerbVerbInfinitiveExampleEnglish Translation
cooksiisiisi nri dị mmato cook is good
stealzuizuizu oshi adịghi mmato steal is not good
buyzụzụịzụ ọkụkọto buy chicken
rearzụzụịzụ ọkụkọto rear chicken
trainzụzụịzụ nnwato train a child

English VerbVerbGerundExampleEnglish Translation
cooksiisiisi nri dị mmacooking is good
stealzuizuizu oshi adịghi mmastealing is not good
buyzụzụịzụ ọkụkọbuying chicken
rearzụzụịzụ ọkụkọrearing chicken
trainzụzụịzụ nnwatraining a child

Gerund (based on compound verb)
English VerbVerbGerundExampleEnglish Translation
cooksiosisiosisi nri mmemmecooking of party food
stealzuozuzuozuzu e zuru ọkụkọ mthe stealing of my chicken
trainzụzụzụọ bụ maka ọzụzụ ụmụ akwụkwọit's for the training of students

Agent Noun
English VerbVerbAgent
ExampleEnglish Translation
cooksiosiosi nricook/chef
stealzuozuozu ọkụkọchicken thief
trainzụzụọzụ ọkụkọchicken rearer

English VerbVerbPerfectExampleEnglish Translation
cooksiesielaJohn esiela nriJohn has cooked
stealzuezuolandi oshi ezuola ego mthieves have stolen my money
trainzụazụọlaJohn azụọla ụlọJohn has bought a house


Interfix is found between two verbs and results in a verbal derivative. The syntax for such verbal derivative is [prefix][verb root][interfix][verb root].

English VerbVerbVerbal
ExampleEnglish Translation
cooksiesimesio siere anyị esimesi dị iche ichehe cooked a variety of food for us
eatrierimerianyị riri erimeri dị iche ichewe ate a variety of food
writedeedemededee edemede gbasara ubewrite an article on pear
talkkwuekwurekwuJohn bụ onye ekwurekwuJohn is a talkative


Suffix is affixed to the end of a verb. Suffix can either be inflectional suffix or extensional suffix. Inflectional suffix is used to mark tense, aspects, mood or negation (e.g. -ra, -re, -ghi, -rọ). (Note that prefixes can also be inflectional: -e, -a, -o, -ọ). The Igbo term for inflectional suffix is nsonaazụ mgbanwe. The Igbo term for extensional suffix is nsonaazụ mgbatị. Extensional suffix extends the meaning of the verb.

Igbo enclitics are similar to suffixes, but in addition to verbs, they can work with other parts of speech.

Inflectional Suffix

Stative verbs
English VerbVerbStative
ExampleEnglish Translation
havenwenwereo nwere egohe has money (he is rich)
wantchọchọrọachọrọ m ịṅụ mmiriI want to drink water
thinkchechereechere m na ọ ga-abịaI think he will come

Simple Past
English VerbVerbSimple
ExampleEnglish Translation
eatriririo riri jihe ate yam
gogagaraọ gara akwụkwọhe went to school
drinkṅụṅụrụaṅụrụ m mmiriI drank water
havenwenweereo nweere egohe had money (he was rich)
wantchọchọọrọachọọrọ m ịṅụ mmiriI wanted to drink water
thinkchecheereecheere m na ọ ga-abịaI thought he will come

English VerbVerbImperativeExampleEnglish Translation
eatririerie jieat yam
gogagaagaa akwụkwọgo to school
buildrụrụrụọ ụlọbuild a house

English VerbVerbNegationExampleEnglish Translation
eatririghio righi jihe didn't eat yam
gogagaghiọ gaghi akwụkwọhe didn't go to school
buildrụrụghiọ rụghi ụlọhe didn't build a house

English VerbVerbPerfectExampleEnglish Translation
cooksiesielaJohn esiela nriJohn has cooked
stealzuezuolandi oshi ezuola ego mthieves have stolen my money
trainzụazụọlaJohn azụọla ụlọJohn has bought a house

Perfect (single letter pronoun)
English VerbVerbPerfectExampleEnglish Translation
cooksisielao siela nrihe has cooked
stealzuzuolae zuola ego mmy money has been stolen
trainzụzụọlaọ zụọla ụlọhe has bought a house

Extensional Suffix

Imperative (towards)
English VerbVerbImperativeExampleEnglish Translation
fetchkukurukuru mmirifetch water (for yourself)
domemeeremeere m yado it for me
carrybuburuburu nricarry food (for yourself)

Extensional suffix
English Translation
look forchọchọtafind
look forchọchọwakeep looking for
livebibiketelive close
takewewedatake down
takewewedatabring down
takewewetubring down
takewewegotake up
takewewelilift up